What were the trending baby names in the past decades?

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

The most popular baby names do not change frequently — Michael was on the top of the list from the 1960s until it was passed by Jacob in the 2000s. Mary was the most popular name for girls for the entire first half of the century.

On the other hand, it’s still interesting to see which names rapidly gained popularity in the past years. Since the official Social Security website provides data from Social Security card applications for each state, we can trace the geographical nature of such changes.

To determine the trending baby names we removed the growth component, which can be attributed to the general increase in the number of births. After that, we looked for the names with the most births during each decade starting with the 1920s.

On the two maps below you can see the fastest-growing name for each state, as well as the top three names nationally and the number of new births yearly.

Back in the 1920s, the top three trending names for boys were Robert, Richard and Donald. Geographically, however, a clear line can be seen separating the South from the other states. While Robert was the most-trending name in all other regions, other names (Billy and Charles, most notably) were gaining popularity in the southern states.

Michael gained popularity during both the 40s and the 50s (again following clear geographical patterns), followed by Christopher, Jason and Joshua. In recent years, Ethan and Liam were the fastest-growing names.

Interestingly, the picture for girl names was very similar in the 1920s with Betty being the trending name in most states, excluding the southern ones. Also, we can’t help but notice that in the 1940s Linda was the trending name for girls in each and every one of the states. Another interesting decade was the 50s, where one-half of the states (the northern and western ones) preferred Debra, while Deborah was more popular in the others.

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About Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov

Andrey Kamenov, Ph.D. Probability and Statistics

Andrey Kamenov is a data scientist working for Advameg Inc. His background includes teaching statistics, stochastic processes and financial mathematics in Moscow State University and working for a hedge fund. His academic interests range from statistical data analysis to optimal stopping theory. Andrey also enjoys his hobbies of photography, reading and powerlifting.

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